Is Gen Z the Most Stressed Generation?

Key Takeaways

  • In APA’s Stress in America 2020 Survey, Gen Z is reported to be the most stressed generation, scoring an average Stress level of 6.1 on a scale of 1-10.
  • Gen Z stressors include high suicide rates (62%), relationship problems due to the pandemic (63%), changes in abortion laws (50%), and sexual harassment and assault in the news (58%).
  • 82% of Gen Z members want more support, and it’s important to provide this through listening, promoting positivity, providing flexibility, maintaining social connections, and celebrating milestones creatively.

Three years on from the pandemic, is Gen Z still the most stressed generation?Three years on from the pandemic, is Gen Z still the most stressed generation?

Who is Generation Z?

Gen Z is the newest generation, born between 1997 and 2012 as defined by the Pew Research Center. They are currently between 9 and 24 years old and make up nearly 68 million in the US.

COVID-19's Lasting Impact on Gen Z

Over the last three years, we saw many lasting consequences due to COVID-19. Gen Z likely experienced the most impact. Here are some of the key lasting impacts on Gen Z:

Education Disruptions: Many Gen Z experienced significant education disruptions due to school closures, remote learning and the shift to online classes. This also had an impact in social activities within formative adolescent years, many missed college graduations, proms, etc.

Economic Impact: Due to the economic downturn experienced nationwide during COVID-19, this has led to limited job opportunities and increased competition. The economic repercussions of the pandemic may affect their career prospects and financial stability in the future.

Technology Dependency: Due to lockdowns and shutdowns, the pandemic accelerated the adoption and reliance of digital technologies amongst Gen Z. They are even more reliant on online platforms for education, work, and social interactions. This increased dependency may have implications for their social skills and well-being in the long run.

Due to all the above stressors, this has led to a rise in Gen Z’s mental health issues. There has been increased rates of anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation.

Stress and Its Impact on Generations

Since 2007, the American Psychological Association (APA) has published an annual survey about Americans’ stress levels. Due to the pandemic and civil unrest, 2020 was a particularly stressful year across the board. So it surprised no one when this survey showed unusually high-stress levels. What may come as a shock is who reported the most stress: Generation Z, or Gen Z for short.

On a scale from one to 10, generations reported stress at these levels:

  • 75 years and older – 3.3
  • Baby Boomers – 4.0
  • Gen X – 5.2
  • Millennials – 5.6
  • Gen Z – 6.1

One explanation may be that as people age, they have experienced and survived more stressful events. That makes it easier to adopt an attitude of “this too shall pass.” Meanwhile, teens and young adults are growing up during uncertain times without a clear idea of what lies ahead.

In APA’s 2022 Stress in America survey they ask participants to think about the impact of stress on daily functioning and productivity.

  • 46% ages under 35 report they are so stressed they can’t function
  • 42% ages 35-44 report they are so stressed they can’t function
  • 16% ages 45-64 report they are so stressed they can’t function
  • 4% ages 65+ report they are so stressed they can’t function

What Does Gen Z Say Stresses Them Out?

The APA doesn’t stop at asking people how stressed they are. They also ask why. Unsurprisingly, the pandemic was top-of-mind for people of all ages. However, other major issues were stressing out Gen Z as well.

Gen Z participants expressed particular stress about:

  • High rates of suicide (62 percent)
  • Problems in all kinds of relationships due to the pandemic (63 percent)
  • Changes to abortion laws (50 percent)
  • Sexual assault and harassment in the news (58 percent)

Additionally, 79

Facing Stress at the Crossroads of Adulthood

As we continue to unpack the root causes behind Gen Z’s amplified Stress levels, it’s essential to acknowledge the unique confluence of challenges this generation is grappling with. Living in the digital age, Gen Z is exposed to a constant inflow of information and societal issues from every corner of the globe.

This can lead to a sense of feeling overwhelmed, inducing what is termed “eco-Anxiety”—Stress resulting from facing environmental issues like climate change. According to the Cigna 360 Global Well-Being Survey, such environmental concerns are a significant source of Stress for 64% of Gen Z individuals.

What’s more, a defining trait of Gen Z is their inherent familiarity with technology. While this positions them well to adapt to an increasingly digital world, it also means they are susceptible to the Mental Health risks associated with social media use. Numerous studies link heavy social media use to elevated levels of Anxiety and Depression, and unfortunately, Gen Zers are not immune to this trend.

Additionally, Gen Z’s formative years have been marked by economic uncertainty. Many are entering the job market or higher education during a time of global financial instability, fueling worries about their future. This is seen in the increasing number of problems with Gen Z in the workplace, with the generation reporting high levels of job insecurity and Stress. According to Cigna International Health’s 2023 survey of almost 12,000 workers around the world. 91% of 18- to 24-year-olds report being stressed, compared to 84% on average.

A deeper understanding of why Gen Z is struggling can pave the way for more effective support and interventions. After all, this isn’t just a “Gen Z problem”—it’s a societal one that we must collectively address. Offering comprehensive Mental Health support like Adult Psychiatry or Adolescent Therapy can play a crucial role in helping this generation navigate through these stressful times.

Impact of Social Media on Gen Z

Gen Z, also known as digital natives, are the first generation to grow up in the age of social media, where the constant bombardment of curated lives and unrealistic standards can distort self-perception and exacerbate feelings of inadequacy and isolation. While the rise in Mental Health challenges could be explained by generational differences in coping, societal elements that neglect the basic needs of young people must not be ignored.

Problems With Gen Z in the Workplace

These factors contribute to the problems with Gen Z in the workplace. Gen Z struggles to maintain the same performance and productivity levels as their older counterparts due to their elevated Stress and Anxiety levels.

This generation, entering adulthood in the midst of a pandemic, faces an uncertain job market and limited opportunities, resulting in increased pressure and Stress. Furthermore, a lack of traditional workplace experiences due to remote work scenarios contributes to feelings of isolation and disconnection.

Supporting Gen Z's Mental Health

At LifeStance, we offer various treatments, including Psychotherapy and Family Therapy, which can be crucial tools in addressing these issues. Through Psychotherapy, Gen Z individuals can develop coping mechanisms, gain emotional resilience, and improve their overall well-being.

Remember, you don’t have to face these challenges alone. Find a provider at LifeStance to navigate these hurdles with a professional, helping you pave the way for a brighter future.

Authored By 

LifeStance Health
LifeStance Health

LifeStance is a mental healthcare company focused on providing evidence-based, medically driven treatment services for children, adolescents, and adults.